The Careers Strategy for England is here and I am delighted that WorldSkills UK is an integral part of it. As DfE Apprenticeships and Skills Minister, Anne Milton, says in the Strategy: ‘Our careers provision must be world-class to help people understand the range of opportunities available to them in today’s economy and acquire the skills and qualifications they need to succeed in the workplaces of the future’. Indeed, this is one of several references to ‘world-class’ within the document – and that is the correct benchmark for what is no small task: to revolutionise the ways in which young people engage with one of the most crucial life decisions.
Thinking about what you want to do, who you want to be and how you’re going to do it isn’t an easy task; but with the right information, the right guidance and the right opportunities, it’s a task that can be approached confidently. I am clear that the Careers Strategy sets out an approach that can deliver results which will allow young people to achieve their potential. And here’s how WorldSkills UK can contribute to delivering the Strategy in three key ways.
Firstly, helping define what we mean by world-class. At WorldSkills UK, ‘world-class’ is what we do, but the concept is not yet mainstreamed. We mean a recognised standard that the best countries internationally achieve and one that the UK too should achieve. In October, Minister Milton was out at WorldSkills Abu Dhabi with Team UK, 30 apprentices who were competing against the biggest and best nations worldwide across all the skills this country needs to build the successful, high productivity economy last week’s Industrial Strategy demands. I know that the Minister was hugely impressed by what she saw out in Abu Dhabi and by the extraordinary achievements of team members like Betsy Crosbie. Betsy was one of only two girls out of 26 competing in her engineering competition at the Abu Dhabi Skills Olympics and after completing tasks like designing a torch using a 3D printer, she achieved the world-class standard and medallion of excellence. Stories like Betsy’s are important as the Careers Strategy sets out how girls are less likely to pursue STEM careers, with gender disparities increasing with age, despite no differences in ability. If we’re to turn this round, we need real life, world-class role models: Betsy Crosbie is exactly that.
Secondly, delivering careers advice from world-class role models. In partnership with the Careers & Enterprise Company, our former competitors, like Betsy, are going into schools across England and sharing their experiences. By doing so, we are enabling a unique model of peer-to-peer careers advice: if real, relatable and relevant world-class experience is the key to making informed choices then the potential of this kind of careers advice is limitless. In the context of only 18% of young people today being satisfied with the advice they receive in relation to STEM, I can say confidently that the figure is going to be increased markedly with Team UK’s help. Our stats prove this. We have piloted this model across England and have found that 76% of young people say that hearing from a former competitor has made them feel inspired and motivated, with a further 76% saying they now know more about technical skills based careers than before. We are ambitious to roll this out across the UK .
Thirdly, delivering a careers platform for world-class inspiration. The Strategy highlighted The Skills Show, the nation’s largest skills and careers event which, just a couple of weeks ago, once again welcomed over 70,000 young people, parents, businesses and teachers to the NEC in Birmingham. The Skills Show is the UK’s hub for world-class inspiration where careers journeys begin. These journeys take many forms. For example, for competitors in our 50 skills competitions finals, to which the Show plays host, there are journeys for those following in Betsy’s footsteps onto European competition finals next summer in Hungary and the next Skills Olympics in Russia in two years’ time. For 14- and 15-year-olds from across the country visiting innovative STEM employers like Dyson, there are journeys to fully funded apprenticeships at the Dyson Academy after experiencing the unique, have a go activity that only The Skills Show can deliver. Whatever the journey young people visiting the Show are beginning, the desired destination is the same: a world-class career. The inspirational power of the Show is recognised across Government, which is why Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, chose to launch the Year of Engineering with us. We will do much more on this in the months ahead and I’ve got no doubt that after setting a very high bar this year, next year’s Skills Show will break new ground.
WorldSkills UK welcomes the Careers Strategy. We’re excited by it. We want to see it succeed. It’s why we are developing both live and digital inspirational activities to engage some one million young people by 2022. World-class apprenticeships and technical skills can only be built from world-class careers advice. That is the new measure and working together we can all help to achieve it.